Wojtek (pronounced Voy-Tech) was a bear that served as a mascot to the Polish 22nd Transport Division in World War Two. He was purchased from an Iranian shepherd for a few tins of meat (his mother had been killed) and then hand-raised by the men of the unit. Wojtek quickly came into his own and was loved by all the men. He was given a name and informal rank so he could be with his unit and was famous for smoking cigarettes, drinking beer and sneaking into the tents at night to snuggle with his comrades. When he wasn’t getting into trouble he helped his unit by being an ambassador, a guard for the trucks and even helped capture an enemy spy.

While it is an oft-quoted story that Wojtek carried artillery shells at the Battle of Monte Cassino, in truth he did not actually carry any shells and he was at the rear of the battle back at camp where he would be safe. That particular  legend started a few days after Monte Cassino around a campfire after a conversation from a new
recruit went out of control and reporters from an Allied news service got a hold of the story. Nevertheless, I think the unit insignia is utterly badass and thus the legend shall remain!

Other tidbits of note…

There were three mascots in the unit. A Dalmatian named Kirkuk, Kascia the monkey and Wojtek. Kirkuk got stung by a scorpion before leaving to Italy and died. Kascia ended up in a zoo in Rome and got impregnated by another monkey. Her baby died and she died of a broken heart thereafter (stopped eating and wasted away).

Wojtek did not have a serial number or a rank other than Private. It is dubious that he was ever even a Corporal and, if so, it was done after demobilization.

The significance of and my personal connection with Wojtek goes much deeper than the above blurb. For more information, check out these links!